A Helping Hand

On a shoot last week I found I had not brought enough Ilford Delta 400 film with me. This film is my bread and butter for black and white portraits, and so with some trepidation I was forced to dip into my camera bag for some Ultrafine Extreme 400, an inexpensive film I had not shot before. When it was time to process the film I did some research online and was not happy to see various lousy reviews of the film, until I ran into a post by a photographer I know on Flickr who had managed to tame this beast. I messaged him a couple of questions and in a very short time I had the magic formula (Xtol, 1:1 for 13 minutes @68 degrees). The negatives turned out fine (an example is below).

This will never be my primary film (I got it mainly as a cheaper way to test lighting set-ups), but I still got some great shots, thanks to a helping hand from the Internet

Can't resist posting one more


At the Beach

Ilford HP5+ is a film that I’ve never had luck with in 35mm; it’s always been just too grainy when I develop it. And that was certainly true with the latest roll, so for this image I decided to bow to the inevitable, and accentuate the grain with some post processing. I captured this image at Ashbridges Bay in Toronto, while waiting for a model to show up; it was a very grey September evening, and this part of the beach was certainly not busy.

At the Beach

Beyond the Sunset

I had a shoot in Toronto’s High Park last week with a model named Caitlin. She described herself as shy, but I sensed thoughtfulness and depth: in this image below, I believe I captured her not just looking at a sunset, but seeing and thinking.

Looking beyond the sunset

From a Distance

I find when shooting people I always like to get in close. This is normally the way to go when taking people pictures, but it is important to also be able to take pictures from some distance, to make the background and setting a more important part of the image. This is what I was trying to do in this image, taken last weekend at HarbourFront in Toronto, in gorgeous late afternoon light.

From Cosplay photoshoot, Toronto harbourfront

Film Photography Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive!

I took this picture last Saturday in Bluffers Park, Toronto. I shot it with a Yashica FX-D 35mm SLR. I got this camera on eBay, and because part of the exterior was in really rough shape, I got it for a song, not much more than the cost of a couple of disposable cameras. It is in good working order however. The film I used was Polypan F. I got some rolls of this film from my friend Mike in exchange for a developing tank, as detailed in this post. I then went online and bought 90 metres of this film (almost the length of a football field!) in bulk so I can roll it myself, for about $40 after shipping. And since I develop my own, I save there too.

Who says film photography has to be expensive?

Bluffers Park, Toronto

Most Important Picture This Year, and It’s Not Mine!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Mike and Dawn, whom I had made contact with via Flickr. Mike and Dawn had expressed an interest in learning how to develop their own black and white film. I had a extra tank and reel for developing film, so we agreed to a trade; I got a bunch of film in return for the gear, and I had them over to give a quick tutorial on developing film. While the negatives were drying we went on a pleasant photo-walk in Bluffers Park, and by the time we got back the negatives were dry. On the way home, Mike and Dawn bought the chemicals they needed to do their own developing, and late last night I got the following email:

“Well John, I did it! I have developed a roll of film! Holy cow it’s easy! I can’t get over how simple it is! I just processed a roll of Arista Premium 400 Professional… I’m just ecstatic about it!  The roll came out great! I follow the directions for the developer (Kodak TMAX) which is 1+4… just fantastic! 
I will be scanning the images in tomorrow, as I just don’t have the time tonight.. 

Thank you so much John!”

It brought such a smile to my face, to see the thrill in Mike’s words, and I don’t think that digital photography can deliver the same thrill; it really is magic.

Mike posted this image of Dawn and baby Noah on Flickr, from the first roll he developed himself. What is really special is that it was taken by Mike and Dawn’s three-year old son! It is great to see the tradition continue to the next generation! This makes it for me, the most important picture this year.


Another One-Frame Story

I had another shoot with a model recently; Megan is an aspiring actress, who may be getting a shot at a TV pilot! The photo shoot took place in downtown Toronto, at Massey Hall. I’m starting to think that to be a good model is to be a good actress/actor: there is always a special depth of expression and subtlety coming out of people with acting experience.

Outside Massey Hall, Toronto